It’s that time of year again – the holidays! If you’re like most people, it can be one of the most stressful times of the year.

Are you missing a loved one this year? The holidays seem to amplify that feeling of loss and sadness.

We may think of the quirky things they did, like my Mom always burning the Thanksgiving dinner rolls – every year! We even joked about that at her funeral.

After my grandparents died, we’d always remember them in a prayer before our holiday meal, and I witnessed how upset all the adults at the table would get, many crying for a few minutes. It’s a very emotional part of the year.

And for our loved ones that we’ll be spending time with, family dynamics and challenges in certain family relationships could cause some stress.

And then we have the gift giving of the holiday season. It’s a main stressor that can bring up a lot of issues for people, like a perceived lack of money to buy gifts, not getting the right gift or worrying if someone gives you something and you have no gift in return, and don’t forget about shopping for gifts with crowded stores and long lines. Ah, the holidays.  

Here are my 8 tips for a stress free holiday season:

1. Minimize your to-do list. Make your list and then go through each item and ask, “Is this really necessary? If I don’t do this, what will happen?”

Remove, simplify or delegate at least half of the items from your original list to avoid overstretching yourself. Set yourself up for success this season.

2. Shop early, and wrap gifts as you go. As a young adult for some reason I’d wait to go shopping on Christmas Eve, and remember feeling my blood pressure rising from trying to find gifts when most of the inventory was gone, and then staying up to all hours that night wrapping those gifts – so stressful, and so unnecessary.

If only I took this advice back then, to shop early and wrap as you go.

Bonus tip: put sticky notes on the wrapped gifts to remind you what’s inside, just be sure to take the notes off before you deliver the gift!

3. Buy food, don’t cook or bake. Shopping for ingredients, preparing the food, cooking every night for weeks after working all day – this is a recipe for exhaustion (pun intended).  

Grocery stores, bakeries and the freezer department at the big discount retailers have delicious, pre-baked holiday appetizers, meals and desserts.

Or, you can even buy your whole meal already prepared at the grocery store to heat and serve, or make reservations at a restaurant and not have any cleanup involved.

The time and effort saved allows you to spend the holidays on more important and satisfying things, like visiting with family and friends and having meaningful conversations with those you love, instead of working in the kitchen and missing all the fun.

4. Or, if it’s not the holidays for you without home-made food, then plan to have finger food and appetizers, not a huge feast

For me, there’s one dish we always had growing up and it’s just not Christmas without them: Polish pierogi. I found a European deli nearby that sells pierogi similar to the ones my grandmother made from scratch, and they’re so easy to prepare.

It’s easier on the cook and your guests will thank you when they don’t feel like they’ve overindulged.

You can even share the work by making it a pot-luck holiday event – I did that one Thanksgiving and it really took the pressure off me as the host.

5. Remember what the holidays are really about: a celebration of gratitude and love. 

Gratitude for all the blessings we have and taking time to spend with your loved ones. Everything else comes in a distant third.

Consciously take time to appreciate all the abundance in your life: all the love, your health, your family, and your friends. Meditating, praying or journaling about this leading up to the holidays and during them is a daily practice.

Be an example to others throughout the season: hold the door for someone, smile at strangers, laugh and enjoy!

6. Ask for help. For many of us, including me, asking for help doesn’t come easy.

But don’t ignore the power in asking for help – there is no reason why you have to do everything on your own.

My mother never asked for help, until the night before and by that time she was in full-on panic mode, stressed out, lashing out, yelling, rushing around, and generally miserable.

Plan ahead, delegate as much as possible and don’t feel guilty about receiving help from others; instead remember that people want to help and don’t want to come over empty handed, so just ask them to bring a salad, or a dessert, or a particular side dish of theirs that you love, so you don’t have to shop for and make it all yourself.

The same goes for cleaning up. I hosted Thanksgiving a few years ago, and all my guests insisted I sit and relax while they cleared the table, put all the leftovers away, and washed and dried all the dishes! When everyone helps out, it’s easier and gets done much more quickly.

7. Take action to stay healthy. Listen to your body and keep a careful watch for any of these signs, and make immediate changes before they worsen:

  • Not sleeping well, unable to fall asleep easily or not feeling rested when you wake up.
  • Feeling irritable, moody and unhappy – snapping at people when they don’t deserve it.
  • Exhaustion and fatigue – not just tired, but extremely tired to the point where you feel you can’t function or you need a nap in the middle of the day.
  • Physical issues like headaches, stomachaches, joint pain, overall body achiness, and catching frequent colds and illnesses (a sign your immune system is low).

If you’re experiencing any of these, it’s a sign to slow down, figure out what could be the cause, and take steps to alleviate these symptoms. Some ideas are in #8….  

8. Plan time to take care of yourself.

Don’t worry about having your house, your decorations, your food, everything – be perfect for everyone else’s benefit, at the expense of your physical and mental health.

Plan some time for yourself: it could be a walk outside, a yoga or exercise class, quiet time alone to meditate, a warm Epsom salt bath, or book an Energy healing or massage session.

It’s all about balance and this self-care is important for your wellbeing.

Sometimes, you must put yourself first so that you can be your best you for your family and friends this holiday season.

Use one or more of these tips and make it a wonderful holiday season to remember for years to come.

Photo by Freestocks on Unsplash